Carrying out a decision that will cost the lives of tens of thousands of women and children around the globe, President Bush officially shifted the $34 million originally meant for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to a US healthcare program for children overseas. The Child Survival and Health Programs Fund, overseen by the State Department’s Agency for International Development, operates programs in 80 countries, as compared to the 142 countries that the UNFPA supports.
Bush’s decision was made based on unsubstantiated claims by anti-abortion extremists that the UNFPA supports forced abortions in China. The result will be a cut in 13 percent of funding for the UNFPA’s international family planning programs – which would have enabled the UNFPA to prevent two million unwanted pregnancies, 4,700 maternal deaths, nearly 60,000 cases of maternal illnesses and over 77,000 cases of infant and child death. Bush made this decision despite Secretary of State Colin Powell’s earlier endorsement of the UNFPA’s “invaluable work” and a report from the administration’s own fact-finding team that found no evidence that the UN organization “has knowingly supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization in China.”
Meanwhile, efforts have been underway from US lawmakers, US citizens and governments abroad to have the funds restored to the UNFPA. Both the House and the Senate appropriations committees have approved legislation allocating $25 million for UNFPA while stipulating that no assistance be given to China’s State Family Planning Commission (SFPC) Ñ the agency accused by the anti-abortion Population Research Institute of coercive practices. In July, the European Union agreed to step in with $31.8 million, however, that money will not cover all the gaps left by Bush’s decision. In addition, Lois Abraham of New Mexico and Jane Roberts of California started an email campaign in the hopes of reaching “34 million friends” to urge them to contribute $1 or more to UNFPA. As of September 27th, UNFPA has received $54, 306.95 in support, according to a UNFPA Website.
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